Dealing with my own widow grief is harrowing; however, dealing with my daughters’ pain is beyond paralyzing. One is an adult and married, my other is 16 and as I have written about before, she has autism and requires 24 hour care. For me, the delightful pleasures of motherhood can lift me incredibly high and the pain of watching them mourn can capsize my spirit. If you have children, how have you dealt with their sorrow? What have they taught you about grief?

As parents we want to mend and banish our children’s suffering. Their foundation and beliefs of the world have been fractured. Nevertheless, grief is individualized and as distinct as a set of handprints smeared in finger paint. Many days I have felt overwhelmed not knowing how to meet all of their needs or how to be their resource of direction. In fact, in countless ways, they have also lost the mom that they knew as well.

As my daughters’ names are lovingly etched in the corridors of my heart and in my prayers, I have grappled with how to proceed. Through my grief counseling, the following ideas (primarily for my youngest) have assisted me in navigating their grief: 1. Reveal age-appropriate information about their father’s passing  2. Address their fears  3. Provide reassurance that they are not to blame 4. Acknowledge their feelings  5. Allow them to express their emotions in a safe manner and for me to listen to what is being spoken and more importantly, what is not spoken  6. Re-establish their sense of safety in the world  7. Respect their way of copying  8. Facilitate their involvement in remembering and honoring their father 9. Cultivate a support system that is going to help them forge ahead 10. Encourage them to joyfully embrace the future while taking along the precious memories and building on them.

My parenting goal in life has always been to celebrate their individuality. Furthermore, to emulate our Savior’s love, to lavish them unconditionally, and to reflect my faith even amidst our catastrophic loss. Nevertheless, the interesting thing throughout this journey is once again, my daughters have been my unsurpassed teachers.

My oldest daughter captivates me. Her enchanting grace dazzles me and the tenderness in her eyes recharges me. She learned at a young age how vulnerable life can be. She assisted in the care of her grandmother during her fight with cancer, she has sacrificed and advocated for her sister, and she lost her first “official” boyfriend to suicide. Moreover, while her father was undergoing his courageous battle with cancer, she took time off from college to assist in his care. Since David’s death, she continues to be my biggest motivator as she empowers me to re-establish who I am. Just one example, shortly after my husband’s passing, I realized that I had not gotten gas in my car for nearly 20 years. I understand this might sound laughable; although, David always got if for me and the thought of getting gas on my own was literally terrifying. She took me to the gas station, not just once, but three times and patiently showed me how to work the pumps. She sweetly explained the steps and told me, “Mom, you can do this and you have the ability to grow.”

My litany of love for my youngest is also beyond measure. No one ever expects to have a child with autism; on the other hand, the awe factor in that statement is that no one ever realizes the undeniable miracles and beauty that arises forth. Consequently, her comprehension is so limited and yet, I believe she is so much smarter than me. On the days that she is missing Daddy even more profoundly, she always puts in the movie, “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” She signs to me or tells me on her communication program, “Sit down and watch with me.” While we watched it again last night, every time a quote dealing with life and death was spoken, she took my hand and put it over her heart. Here are a few: “Now I am not asking you to be happy at my leaving but all I ask you to do is to turn the page and let the next story begin.”  “We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with determination, joy, and bravery.” “Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.”

As my girls have been my pillar of strength, I constantly reiterate these two nuggets of parenting wisdom: “Being a mother, as far as I can tell, is a constantly evolving process of adapting to the needs of your child while also changing and growing as a person in your own right.” -Deborah Insel and “As a mother, my job is to take care of the possible and trust God with the impossible.” -Ruth Bell Graham.

As always, you are welcome to comment and/or share. I am humbled time and time again as I learn from each one of you.

Due to health issues, I will be cutting back to posting my Wednesday blog to every other Wednesday. On April 29th my topic will be, “A Widow, a Wedding and a Funeral.”

Holding All of You in My Heart and Prayers,

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell